SportsPro Live 2023: Redefining the fan experience panel round-up

Fan engagement was the hot topic at SportsPro Live 2023. But how can sports drive better results from their fan marketing? What role does fan data have to play? And what are the best ways to drive international growth? Read on to find out… 


Judd Goldstein, our Head of Sports Fan Engagement recently chaired the ‘Redefining the fan experience’ panel session at SportsPro Live 2023.

Judd was joined by Aarti Dabas, (Chief Media Officer, Formula E) and Ben Ladkin (Managing Director, MLB Europe) to discuss the latest trends in sports fan engagement, including international expansion, ownable fan data and digital innovation across owned & operated properties.


The power of fan data


As sports strive to better grow, engage and retain their audience, first-party fan data is becoming an invaluable asset. Sports of all sizes – including both Formula E and MLB Europe – are using this data to better understand and market to new and existing fan audiences.

When reflecting on the rise of Formula E – the world’s premier all-electric racing series – since it debuted in 2014, Dabas outlined how data-led audience insights enabled the sport to achieve strong growth, including 20% audience growth and a 50% rise in social media engagement.

Dabas said: “We first needed to know how our fans engage. Do they watch with somebody? Do they buy jerseys? What inspires them? What are their attitudes towards sustainability?” This fan understanding allowed the emerging sports property to personalise fan engagement and select highly-relevant sponsorship partners that resonate with its audience’s interests.

Ladkin echoed the importance of fan data and, in discussion with Goldstein, outlined how it becomes all the more powerful for new audience growth when paired with segmentation technology.


Localisation for international expansion 


For the biggest organisations in world sport, reaching new fans in international markets is today a primary focus.

When discussing the potential for global expansion, Goldstein, Ladkin and Dabas agreed on the importance of fan education and localised content across channels like social media and TV broadcasts.

For example, with games played on U.S. timezones, MLB’s fan engagement strategy for Europe stretches beyond just the live game itself. It focuses on authentic storytelling across social media to allow fans to better understand what’s happening in the league in a casual way.

Ladkin said: “For European growth, we had to change our content offering to focus on fan engagement and the stories that were happening throughout the season.”

Formula E, meanwhile, added Jakarta and Seoul to its race calendar in 2022. Via a high-volume of localised social media content (which delivered a 165% rise in video views), it drove 27.6m fans in Indonesia to watch the Jakarta E-Prix. This made it the most watched event in its history.


New owned & operated touchpoints


The session also covered tactics to push fans along the marketing funnel. Sports fans consumes content across many channels – from league properties to TV, social media and other mobile apps. So how can sports retain fan attention and own more of the engagement journey?

In response to Goldstein’s final question, both sports gave the audience a glimpse of how they’re investing to enrich their owned & operated platforms.

Last year, the MLB launched a 24/7 streaming service and app in Europe, showcasing game highlights and other on-demand video content for baseball fans. This is part of its direct-to-fan strategy for the European market and helps it build an ownable audience.

Earlier in 2023, Formula E launched a brand-new website and app, including on-demand video content, a live race centre and gamification tools to engage fans on-platform. Like the MLB’s streaming service, this enables the sport to build a propriety fan database that can be utilised for targeted marketing campaigns.

The ‘Redefining the fan experience’ session took place at SportsPro Live in London in April 2023.